More than a quota- Five strategies to promote female leadership in retail 

Jul 19
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Women make up 57 percent of retail employees but are overrepresented on the frontline while severely lacking presence in executive and c-suite roles (they make up only a quarter of executives). 

Investing in female leadership offers clear benefit to retail businesses: greater profitability, improved retention and more accurate decision making, to name a few. 

Here are five actionable ways you can drive female leadership in your company: 

  • Address unconscious bias 

Employers are well aware of the dangers posed by unconscious bias. Ingrained societal lessons and our own personal experiences dictate our attitudes towards entire demographics. Have you caught yourself thinking something like ‘Millennials are so entitled- I won’t hire one again’ or ‘our last baby boomer was so tech illiterate, we don’t need another one’? The majority of us harbour unconscious bias but only a meagre few would be brave enough to admit it. 

When considering employees for a management position, an Executive wouldn’t tell Sandra, “You can’t do this because you’re a woman.” However there’s nothing to stop him thinking ‘Women don’t handle stress well, I think Joe would be a better choice’.

Unconscious bias is difficult to address because it’s neither deliberate nor intentional and most often the bias will never be spoken or put on paper. 

Blind recruitment removes any identification from resumes and forces the hiring team to evaluate a candidate’s suitability based on experience. Having two decision makers increases the chances of their being dialogue rather than one person thinking someone will be a good fit. 

  • Tie diversity to your management goals

“What gets measured gets improved”.

Sound familiar? Peter Drucker said these words 40 years ago and they’re as relevant now as they were then. While the corporate world frequently use bonuses to motivate the achievement of goals, it’s less common to see incentives offered for gender diversity milestones. 

Be specific about how many female leaders you want in your organisation, when you want to make it happen and how you want to acknowledge the achievement. Facebook, for instance, give points to staff recruiters for successfully recruiting diverse candidates which translate to stronger performance reviews and bonuses. 

  • Be transparent about your diversity goals 

Regardless of whether you’re succeeding or failing in gender diversity, failure to recognise it at all tells employees it’s not important to the business. 

Being open about the goals you have as a company and the strides you’re taking towards achieving them is likely not only to rally support from your existing employees but also make the company more enticing for prospective candidates. 

When you launch a new initiative (be it training, networkers or awards) announce it in the public forum. Release reports on progress towards diversity targets. 

  • It’s 2019- get some new policies

Does your company accommodate flexible working hours? Do you prohibit meetings before 9.30am and after 4pm? Do you define a good employee through “seat time” or results? 

Many companies are fulfilling the outdated 9 to 5 status quo, showing little mercy to those with family responsibilities. By failing to adapt policies to the 21st century working woman companies limit the possibility for women to scale the next rung in their career ladder. 

Consider policies like: 

  • Implement flexible working options
  • Offer on-site childcare solutions or partner with a nearby childcare centre to offer employees discounts 
  • Offer menstrual leave (Nike made headlines in 2007 when it started offering employees paid menstrual leave and is still the only global company to have done so)
  • Enforce zero tolerance of sexual harassment 


  • Mentorship 

If you see it, you can be it. Having a living, breathing role model who has faced and overcome the same challenges you find yourself facing is empowering. 

While these mentor relationships can identify and foster up and coming leaders, mentoring can also benefit seasoned professionals. As leaders find themselves with more responsibility, they may even find themselves reaching out their mentors more than in the early stages of their career. 

Mentoring ensures women have the support and advocacy to help them succeed in leadership positions. It’s recommended mentoring opportunities should be encouraged with women and men alike so they aren’t held back by not having a mentor-mentee relationship with male executive leaders.

Criterion Conferences’s APAC Women in Retail & Consumer Goods Leadership Summit, on 9th – 12th September in Melbourne brings together Australia’s foremost female leaders and male champions of change within the sector and is specifically designed to offer the key strategies to help women advance in their careers.

Submitted by Criterion Content Team

Criterion Content Team

This post has been written by the Criterion Conferences Content Team. Based in Sydney, we are an independent research organisation, producing over 90 conferences a year across a variety of industries. Our events, attended by thousands of senior delegates from the public and private sector, are designed to enrich, inspire and motivate. Our focus is on providing innovative, value adding content via our conferences and blogs like this are extension of that principle. You can view our conferences by visiting our website

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